|Los Angeles Clippers: On a Road to Nowhere
Curtis Hill (email@example.com), Disaster Recovery GM Consultant
I sometimes wonder if the inspiration for the movie Groundhog Day is the sorry tale of the
Los Angeles Clippers. The Clips are stuck in a cycle that ranges from being one of the
worst teams in the league, improvement until the team escapes the lottery, followed by a
descent back to the bottom of the league again. Later. Rinse. Repeat.
When I was fortunate enough to last handle the LA Clippers, a couple of years ago, I said
the Clippers needed help in four specific areas: talent, leadership, management, and
ownership. As we approach the 1998 NBA Draft, my analysis has not changed.
It is somewhat fitting that the Clippers won the lottery in a year in which there is no
clear-cut #1 pick. This draft has six players in the first cut, none of which
distinguishes themselves ahead of the others. It's also likely that whomever the Clippers
draft #1 will turn out to be the bust of the draft -- call it the Clippers Curse.
Clippers current situation
Submitted for your approval:
1985: Benoit Benjamin (third overall)
1986: Dwayne Polee (third round, 53rd overall)
1987: Reggie Williams (fourth)
1988: Danny Manning (first)
1988: Hersey Hawkins (sixth)
1989: Danny Ferry (second)
1990: Bo Kimble (eighth)
1991: LeRon Ellis (22nd)
1991: Elmore Spencer (25th)
1992: Randy Woods (16th)
1993: Terry Dehere (13th)
1994: Lamond Murray (seventh)
1994: Greg Minor (25th)
1995: Antonio McDyess (second)
1996: Lorenzen Wright (seventh)
1997: Maurice Taylor (14th)
Let's just say that being drafted by the
Clippers is not exactly the first stop on the road to NBA superstardom. It may not even be
the first stop on the road to NBA journeyman.
It's hard to imagine how such a streak of bad luck could result from a concerted attempt
to make the worst possible selections in the draft. Somehow, the Clippers have bucked the
odds and managed to draft a nearly perfect streak of over-rated or snake-bitten players
over the past 12 years.
First, the statistics
G Min PPG RPG APG Off- Def- Tot AST Stl BLK To PF
Lamond Murray 79 2579 15.4 6.1 1.8 172- 312- 484 140 118 54 171 193
Rodney Rogers 76 2498 15.1 5.6 2.7 155- 270- 425 202 93 33 193 242
Isaac Austin 78 2266 13.5 7.1 2.2 198- 359- 557 172 61 56 206 231
Maurice Taylor 71 1513 11.5 4.2 0.8 118- 178- 296 53 34 40 108 222
Eric Piatkowski 67 1740 11.3 3.5 1.3 70- 166- 236 85 51 14 80 137
Darrick Martin 82 2299 10.3 2.0 4.0 19- 145- 164 328 82 10 154 198
Lorenzen Wright 69 2067 9.0 8.8 0.8 180- 425- 605 55 55 87 81 237
James Robinson 70 1231 7.7 1.6 1.9 37- 74- 111 135 37 13 97 100
Loy Vaught 10 265 7.5 6.5 0.7 16- 49- 65 7 4 2 13 33
Pooh Richardson 69 1252 4.2 1.4 3.3 17- 79- 96 226 44 3 54 71
Keith Closs 58 740 4.0 2.9 0.3 63- 105- 168 19 12 79 38 73
Charles Smith 34 292 3.5 0.8 0.6 13- 14- 27 21 12 7 27 24
Stojko Vrankovic 65 996 3.0 4.1 0.6 71- 192- 263 36 11 66 46 130
James Collins 23 104 2.6 0.6 0.1 7- 7- 14 3 6 3 8 13
Fg 3pt Ft
M-A PCT M-A PCT M-A PCT PTS HI
Murray 473-984 .481 54-153 .353 220-294 .748 1220 32
Rogers 426-935 .456 72-212 .340 225-328 .686 1149 34
Austin 406-871 .466 0-11 .000 243-363 .669 1055 33
Taylor 321-675 .476 0-1 .000 173-244 .709 815 26
Piatkowski 257-568 .452 106-259 .409 140-170 .824 760 29
Martin 275-730 .377 107-293 .365 184-217 .848 841 21
Wright 241-542 .445 0-2 .000 141-214 .659 623 32
Robinson 195-501 .389 74-225 .329 77-107 .720 541 26
Vaught 36-84 .429 0-2 .000 3-8 .375 75 14
Richardson 124-333 .372 11-57 .193 30-43 .698 289 14
Closs 93-207 .449 0-0 .000 46-77 .597 232 15
Smith 49-125 .392 15-47 .319 6-11 .545 119 16
Vrankovic 79-186 .425 0-0 .000 37-65 .569 195 9
Collins 21-55 .382 9-20 .450 8-14 .571 59 15
Don't you just love it when no one on a team is close to
shooting .500 from the field? I will provide analysis of the Clippers roster including the
Clippers' free agents.
Ike Austin(FA) - The
best player on the team? That it's a question says a lot for the talent the Clippers have.
Elgin Baylor thinks that he's going to re-sign with the Clippers. I think the odds are a
lot better that Ike is long gone - unless the Clippers hire a good coach.
Keith Closs - raw and
thin, but he's shown signs of having a good up-side. No real decision here as he's signed
through 2000. Unless there's a Year 2000 bug in the players' CBA.
Lorenzen Wright - I liked
Wright coming out of school but he hasn't shown much in the league, partially due to
injury. He's signed through next year and the Clippers could really use for Wright to be a
player this year. Of course, given the Clippers' luck, he'll have a great year and move on
to a big FA deal.
Stojko Vrankovic - well,
he's no Stanley Roberts. However, given that Big Stanley showed up for a few games in
Minnesota this year, the Clippers definitely got the short end of that deal.
Lamond Murray - maybe
the best player that the Clippers have on this roster who will be on the team next year.
Murray is poised for a big year since he'll be a FA next year. Murray is still a big
shot-happy, but when you're playing for a team as weak as the Clippers, what else is there
to do? Still, he's a decent small forward/big guard.
Rodney Rogers - Rodney
has never really able to play power forward in the NBA like I thought he'd be able to
coming out of Wake Forest. He has the strength to play inside, but hasn't had a lot of
success. He's had more luck at small forward, but his offensive skills aren't good enough
to play the position full-time in the NBA. He's a good player, though, and a good guy.
Rodney has to be looking to have a big statistical year in order to get a FA ticket out of
ClipperLand. This is starting to be a theme, isn't it??
Loy Vaught(FA) - Vaught
has been one of the few pleasant surprises the Clippers have had in the draft over the
past decade. Vaught is a free agent and said he wouldn't return if Bill Fitch was still
the coach. Now the Fitch mercifully (for him) has been let go, perhaps Vaught will re-sign
with the Clippers. Lord knows the Clippers could use another forward.
Maurice Taylor - another
pleasant surprise for the Clippers. The problem is that Taylor, to me, is more suited to
be, at best, the 4th or 5th option on offense when he's in the game and maybe the 6th or
7th man on the team. However, Taylor at least provides a nice bonus for whomever is
coaching the team next season.
Darrick Martin(FA) - is
anyone else surprised he's still in the league? A decent backup point guard and a lot
younger than Pooh Richardson. It appears that the Clippers will try to keep Martin and I
think they will be successful.
James Collins(FA) - at
least he was on the roster, which is more than I was expecting out of James. He had the
talent at Florida State but was inconsistent. Not sure that he'll really be able to help
Pooh Richardson - he's
been around forever, hasn't he? Not sure that the Clippers still want Pooh around but I
don't know what Pooh's intentions are. It might be a good time to retire.
Eric Piatkowski - I must
say that I'm surprised that Piatkowski has played as well as he has in the league. He's
been a good offensive player, though I'm not sure that he's ever going to be a really good
defensive player, especially at shooting guard.
James Robinson - he's as
close as he's going to get to his nickname "Hollywood". Enticing athletic
potential that has never really led to consistent, quality play in the NBA.
Charles Smith - just had
surgery on his foot (the dreaded broken 5th metatarsal). He's a decent enough guard and he
has two years left on his rookie contract. Plenty of time to evaluate a player who could
be a good 3rd or 4th guard in the league, perhaps even for the Clippers.
This is probably the most important
decision the Clippers have to make this year. It is imperative that the Clippers hire a
coach that gives them some credibility and makes players think that they really want to
play for the Clippers. The problem is that most good candidates want to be coach and GM
and it appears that Donald Sterling has no intentions of relieving Elgin Baylor of his
duties. George Karl or Paul Westphal would be the best choices but also are probably the
least likely to take the job. With these guys probably out of reach and names like Jim
Harrick and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar being bandied about, all six or so Clippers fans have to
be worried about whom Sterling is going to hire.
Elgin Baylor is one of the great NBA players of all time
and, I'm sure, a very nice guy and a gentleman. However, he isn't a NBA general manager.
It's time for Elgin to take a job with the league or be named VP of basketball operations
for the Clippers and give up his GM duties. Please, Elgin, do it. Let us remember you for
what you did on the court, not for what you put on the court for the Clippers.
Maybe Fox will buy the Clippers and the Lakers? The Clippers
desperately need new ownership, even moreso than they need a new general manager.
Of course, saying this will get me on the short enemies list of the rest of the league's
owners. Donald Sterling is no Ted Septien, but he's the best the NBA has to offer at this
The Clippers need help in every area of the organization.
Well, maybe not every area. I haven't really dug into quality of the PR department,
marketing department, or the cheerleaders.
Name a position, the Clippers need help.
However, the Clippers are loaded at all three forward positions: small, power, and
tweener. The pick should ideally be at center, point guard, or shooting guard.
The Clippers have to choose from the Big
Six: Antawn Jamison, Mike
Bibby, Michael Olowokandi, Paul Pierce, Raef
LaFrentz, and Vince Carter.
Antawn Jamison - at this time, he's a tweener forward
in the NBA. He is quick, runs the court exceptionally well and is a great competitor. He
has a decent and improving outside shot. He doesn't have a great handle and his low-post
reportoire is, well, the one quick move to the basket. Antawn will either have to work on
getting a real low-post game and becoming a power forward or work on his shot and handle
and play small forward. Given his current inability to defend the low-post, I'd suggest
working on the dribble and aiming toward being the second coming of James Worthy. Great
work ethic and exceptional leadership skills.
Mike Bibby - heady point guard with good ballhandling
skill and a decent, if streaky, shot. Can get to the hoop and finish and is an average
defender with the potential to be a very good defender. Even with his weaknesses, he's one
of the better point guard prospects to enter the draft in recent years.
Michael Olowokandi - a quickly improving center
prospect with a lot of potential. However, I think that the recent love fest with
Olowokandi is coming more from folks desperately hoping that he'll be the next Tim Duncan
than anything else. Should he be one of the top six picks? Most certainly. Will he make an
immediate impact or an impact in his first couple of season? I'd say no at this time.
Paul Pierce -- a good offensive player with the
potential to be very good. I'm not so sure about his defensive ability or his chances on
playing shooting guard in the NBA. I project Pierce to be a pure small forward. Nothing
wrong with that, unless you're the Clippers.
Raef LaFrentz - I like LaFrentz's NBA chances. I see
him as a big forward who can play some center. The way he runs the floor reminds me of
David Robinson, but of course LaFrentz isn't the shot blocker Robinson is. Good work ethic
a very down-to-earth guy.
Vince Carter - I really like the way Carter's game
projects to the NBA. He's a pure two guard who may be able to play some small forward and
point guard down the road. He's a very good defender with all-NBA defensive potential. He
needs to get stronger and work on all aspects of his game, but he could be very, very good
in a few years.
As I said before, the name of the next coach will have a lot
to do with how good the Clippers are in the future. If the Clippers don't hire a quality
guy, then they aren't going to be any good for the forseeable future. A good coach might
be able to get the Clippers out of the lottery and on the road to the playoffs in 2 or 3
The Clippers will never be any good until they can attract
some quality free agents (heck, any free agents) to supplement their excellent drafting
positions. Again, the only way to do this is to start running a quality organization.
Next couple of drafts
One important consideration for teams like the Clippers is
to consider what the NBA draft is going to look like over the next few years. Pickin's are
going to be very, very slim, especially outside of the lottery. However, I don't think the
Clippers will have to be worried about being out of the lottery next year. They do need to
worry about what types of players may or may not be available in upcoming drafts, though.
Let's just say that there will assuredly be a bunch of forwards.
When you look at everything, the Clippers
only have three logical choices: Mike Bibby, Michael Olowokandi, and Vince Carter.
Given the Clippers current situation, the choice that makes the most sense is Mike Bibby.
Vince Carter is very, very tempting. He'd give the
Clippers a good shooting guard and a player that could excite the crowd.
Olowokandi is tempting, too. It always nice to get a good big man. However, Olowokandi is
a project, not at all a known quanity like Tim Duncan. The Clippers would be better served
trying to pick up big man in the next draft or two and really checking out the FA market
for centers. It's always better to get an established player. Also, often you want a
complimentary player at center if you get elite players at other positions. I don't think
Olowokandi is worth the risk for the Clippers at this time.
What the Clippers should do
The Clippers should really draft Bibby. There is a lot of trade talk, but there's little
chance another team will offer them a good deal to move up, since there isn't an obvious
#1 selection. The Clippers should hire a good coach that will give them some respectabilty
and also make him the GM (Karl, Westphal, Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Red
Auerbach, etc.) so that quality NBA players will want to play for the Clippers. And if
Donald Sterling can't do this, he should sell the team to someone who will.
Or he can make me the GM. On the NBA GM pay scale, I'm very affordable.
Clippers will really do
Your guess is as good as mine. It appears
that they will draft Bibby. However, everytime I read something about the Clippers,
something more disturbing comes to light. Whether that it's Jim Harrick and Kareem are
coaching candidates, that Paul Pierce was the most impressive player they worked out
(please, draft another small forward!) or that the Clippers really like Jelani McCoy for
their other first round pick (aaaaggghhhh!!!). You just never know.
At least the Clippers will keep everyone interested until draft day.